Highly Sensitive, Colorimetric Detection of Mercury(II) in Aqueous Media by Quaternary Ammonium Group-Capped Gold Nanoparticles at Room Temperature

We provide a highly sensitive and selective assay to detect Hg2+ in aqueous solutions using gold nanoparticles modified with quaternary ammonium group-terminated thiols at room temperature. The mechanism is the abstraction of thiols by Hg2+ that led to the aggregation of nanoparticles. With the assistance of solar light irradiation, the detection limit can be as low as 30 nM, which satisfies the guideline concentration of Hg2+ in drinking water set by the WHO. In addition, the dynamic range of detection is wide (3 × 10−8−1 × 10−2 M). This range, to our best knowledge, is the widest one that has been reported so far in gold nanoparticle (AuNP)-based assays for Hg2+.